2023 Session Review
The 2023 legislative session adjourned “sine die” for the year on Sunday. Lawmakers spent the weekend finalizing the state budgets and working out compromises on the remaining bills from each chamber.
The government affairs team is pleased to share with you that this session was a success on several fronts for the hospitality industry. Going into this session, Washington Hospitality Association had several priorities, which were developed by the Government Affairs Committee (GAC) last fall.
Those priorities were:
- boosting investments in statewide tourism promotion,
- extending alcohol to go allowances that were in place during the pandemic,
- addressing the growing public safety concerns,
- increasing supply and access to affordable housing,
- expanding workforce development opportunities, and
- protecting our industry from harmful policies.
We have major wins with each of these priorities that are described in more detail below.
A huge thank you to our GAC for providing the direction our team needs to best represent you at the Legislature. If you are interested in joining the GAC, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And another thank you to all Washington Hospitality Association members that responded to our action alerts this session. We issued actions alerts on six major issues this session, which resulted more than 1,000 total engagements from our members. Your efforts to contact lawmakers had an impact on the outcome of these issues.
Read the full 2023 legislative session wrap up below. And please reach out to email@example.com if you have any questions or comments.
Association Top Priorities
SHB 1258: Tourism – This year, one of the association’s top priorities was increasing the funding for statewide tourism promotion. Prior to the pandemic, the industry worked to re-establish a tourism promotion program after it was eliminated in 2011. While the program was being developed by industry and marketing experts the program operated off a $3 million biennial budget, with a 2:1 private funding matching requirement. HB 1258 was originally introduced to change the private matching requirement to a 1:1 ratio and increased the funding to $26 million per biennium. Ultimately, the Legislature appropriated a total of $9 million per biennium, which is a solid step forward to creating a successful tourism marketing program.
Alcohol Home Delivery
SSB 5448: Delivery of alcohol – Several states have extended pandemic options for takeout and delivery of alcoholic beverages permanently, and adding Washington to that list was one of our top priorities this year. SSB 5448 will permanently allow licensees to continue to-go orders of alcohol for on premise sales, when the purchase of alcohol is accompanied with a meal. The bill will also allow any employee of a licensee with a class 12 permit to deliver alcohol to a customer’s home with purchase of food, but third-party delivery will expire in July of this year. Delivery provisions under the bill are scheduled to sunset in 2025, and the LCB is required to submit a report to the Legislature with recommendations to include a consistent, equitable structure for alcohol delivery licenses, endorsements, permits and fees by November 2023. The team will be engaged with the LCB through this process to make sure we have a seat at the table when recommendations are presented to the Legislature.
(Support) SHB 1638: State trooper recruitment – HB 1638 creates an expedited recruitment and hiring program to try and alleviate the large trooper shortages Washington state has been experiencing for the last several years. It allows the Washington State Patrol to establish an expedited training program for lateral hires from other law enforcement agencies and authorizes signing bonuses to incentivize new hires.
(Support) ESB 5352: Vehicular pursuits – This bill has been altered by both the Senate and House since introduction and has remained bipartisan. The bill now says that a peace officer may not engage in a vehicular pursuit, unless there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense, a sex offense, a vehicular assault, domestic assault, an escape or is driving under the influence; the pursuit is necessary for the purpose of identifying or apprehending the person; serious risk of harm to others and the safety risks of failing to apprehend or identify the person are considered to be greater than the safety risks of the vehicular pursuit under the circumstances. Several stipulations remain on how this pursuit may be conducted, who needs to approve it and what alternatives need to be considered. While not perfect, we believe this bill is a step in the right direction.
(Support) E2SHB 1134: 988 system – This bill enhances the training program for 988, the mental health hotline the state stood up a few years ago, dispatchers and develops a needs assessment for specific behavioral health crisis system trainings. It also requires the Department of Health to publicize and promote materials around the 988 hotline. We look forward to partnering with DOH on promoting this vital tool for members across the state when they are interacting with someone who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
(Support) E2SHB 1110: Increasing middle housing – Washington state ranks dead last in affordable housing inventory per capita. Our state is in a housing inventory crisis. We heard from members all over the state that this problem impacts your ability to attract and retain employees, particularly if they can’t afford to live where they work. Local government restrictions on building middle housing — duplexes, triplexes, etc., are a large contributing factor to the problem. And other affordable options. HB 1110 requires certain cities to authorize minimum development densities in residential zones.
(Support) HB 1046: Housing development income limits – Public Housing Authorities (PHA) were established decades ago to provide affordable rental housing to low-income individuals, families, seniors and people with disabilities. These entities can finance low-income housing development if certain thresholds are met, including 50% of the units must be made available to low-income households at 50% – 60% of the area median income. HB 1046 increases the household income cap to 80% of the area median income, allowing more individuals to access affordable rental housing.
Bills Headed to Governor
(Support)HB 1730: Allowing people 18 years of age or older to work in 21 year and older establishments – Current law prohibits employees younger than 21 from working in an age restricted liquor licensed establishment. During the pandemic, the LCB adopted emergency rules to allow for 18 – 20-year-olds to work in back of house positions. Those rules expired at the end of the pandemic, and HB 1730 proposed to make that policy permanent. The bill will allow 18 – 20-year-olds to work for 21 and older establishments, so long as the employee is not employed in any positions that include serving alcohol, food or interacting with patrons. In addition, they must work under a supervisor who is at least 21 years old. This will help us build our workforce as we continue to look for employees.
(Support)HB 1658: Authorizing high school students to receive elective credit for paid work experience – This bill allows high school students age 16+ to receive elective credit for paid work experience in any industry. The student would need to work 360 hours per credit and could earn up to two credits. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction will initiate rulemaking to implement paid work experience provisions. After the rules are approved, employers will be able to participate in this program alongside students.
(Amended) ESHB 1033: Composting taskforce – HB 1033 adds to the work the Legislature has done over the last several sessions by calling for a taskforce to review compostable products on the market, what our current and online system takes, and how to address compostable service ware products moving forward. The hospitality industry holds a seat at the table while these discussions continue.
(Support) SHB 1085: Plastic pollution/shampoo bottle ban – HB 1085 aims to ban single use beauty products that are wrapped in plastic like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap and hand sanitizer in lodging establishment bathrooms. The government affairs team worked to push the implementation date out so small businesses can plan and budget for these changes, as well as advocated for strong state-wide standard language. With these changes the bill now does the following:
Starting on Jan. 1, 2027, lodging establishments with 50 or more rooms will no longer be able to offer single-use bottles that are six ounces or smaller, or bars of soap wrapped in plastic wrap. On Jan. 1, 2028, lodging establishments with 49 rooms or fewer will need to come into compliance. Local governments will not be able to pass, enforce, or enact any policy pertaining to these products after July 23, 2023.
(Support) SB 5286: Paid leave premiums – This summer the Washington Hospitality Association served on the Joint Legislative Taskforce on Paid Family and Medical Leave Premiums, to review actuarial analysis and recommend a new rate setting structure for the program that became insolvent last year. Our goal serving on this task force was to ensure program stability at the lowest rates possible, while maintaining essential employer protections in the program. The Task Force unanimously approved a recommendation that achieved these goals, which was included in SB 5286.
(Support) SSB 5586: PFML data – The Washington Hospitality Association serves on the Paid Family & Medical Leave Advisory Committee, a group made up of business and employee groups to advise the Employment Security Department on policies related to the program. One of the issues that was brought to the advisory committee on behalf of employers was the inability of the department to share critical information about an employee’s leave. The department believed they were prevented from sharing this information with employers because of confidentiality requirements. SB 5286 allows employers to access the type of leave being taken, the requested duration of the leave, approved dates of leave and if the employee has accessed benefits for any given week.
(Amended) SHB 1521: Industrial insurance self-Insured employer and third-party administrator penalties and duties – HB 1521 originally targeted every self-insured employer and third party administrator with the imposition of “a duty of good faith and fair dealing to workers relating to all aspects of this title.” The bill gave L&I rulemaking authority to further flesh out criteria for violations and penalties. It also contains a mandatory penalty for a violation of one to ten times the state’s average weekly wage at the time of the order assessing the violation, depending on severity, and then a discretionary penalty of up to three times the penalty for rules violations (currently $1,000, indexed to inflation every three years). This bill was amended in the Senate to remove private self-insured employers.
(Amended) 2SHB 1762: Warehouse Employees – HB 1762 would require certain warehouse distribution center employers to provide specified quota information upon hire, at least annually, and no fewer than two working days before a modification; prohibit requiring employees to meet quotas that interfere with rights to meal and rest breaks or exposes them to health and safety hazards or violates related laws and rules. This bill is unnecessary as L&I already has the authority to ensure workplace safety but now does not include a private right of action or the AG enforcement and gives L&I a greater enforcement obligation.
(Support) SHB 1570: Transportation Network Companies – The Washington Hospitality Association served on the Transportation Network Company Workgroup within the Employment Security Department this summer and fall. The workgroup was established after legislation passed in 2022 that required these companies to participate in unemployment insurance and the Paid Family and Medical Leave program on behalf of their drivers. Our goal participating on this workgroup was to ensure all businesses participating and regulated in these programs are treated the same, and that costs associated with adding new workers into these programs are not shifted to our industry and other businesses. The workgroup’s recommendations met our goals and were included in SHB 1570.
(Neutral) ESHB 1106: Voluntary Quits/Unemployment Insurance – In 2021, the Washington Hospitality Association worked with the prime sponsor of a bill that would have drastically increased our costs related to unemployment insurance benefit charges. The goal of the bill was to support workers who lost their jobs due to schedule changes, loss of childcare or if they had to move to remain close to a minor child. These are laudable goals, but our unemployment insurance program is funded entirely by employers and provides benefits to unemployed workers when an employer has to layoff an employee. We worked with the prime sponsor to ensure that unemployment insurance benefits would be provided when an employer changes a regularly scheduled shift by more than six hours. The bill also allows a worker to receive benefits if they lose childcare or care for a vulnerable adult, or if they move to be with a minor child. The requirement for a worker to be “able and available” for work and to identify 40 hours per week they are able to work, in order to be eligible for benefits remains.
(Amended) ESSB 5217: Musculoskeletal Injuries – While ergonomics is not a new issue this legislative session, SB 5217 is a dramatically paired down version from last year’s version. We are pleased to report that after a lot of back and forth this week, our suggested amendment language was accepted that narrows their authority and protects our industry from potential unnecessary rulemaking.
With our additions to the bill, L&I will only be able to adopt one rule per year, each rule must be specific to an industry sub classification or risk class, and those sub industries and risk classes must be at least twice the state average for ergonomic claims for a minimum of five years and the department is also prohibited from emergency rulemaking.
(Amended) SHB 1068: Injured Worker Medical Exams – Independent medical exams are crucial to both the employee and employer during the workers compensation claim process. As originally drafted, an employee would have been able to record a medical exam without any prior notification to the physician causing significant delays and costs to the workers compensation system. Among other needed changes, the bill now requires the employee to notify the doctor that they will be recording and a new appointment can be found if the original doctor doesn’t agree to the recording.
(Amended) SHB 1217: Wage Complaints – Starting Jan. 1, 2024, HB 1217 requires L&I to assess penalties at 1% per month on all amounts owed if the employer chooses to resolve a wage complaint without citation and notice of an assessment. The employee may request to waive the interest. Current law allows the employer only to pay wages owed regardless of how much time has passed.
(Amended) SHB 1457: Trucker Restroom Access – HB 1457 requires a business that is a shipper or consignee to allow a motor carrier delivering or picking up goods to use its restroom. Under the amended version, the Department of Health may enforce the requirements under the legislation. Before import amendments were made, the Department of Labor and Industries could have come into a business to investigate a non-employee complaint which was very problematic. The GA team worked to get that provision removed from the bill.
(Oppose) ESHB 1589: Natural Gas Ban – Among other things, HB 1589 would have prohibited large utility companies from offering new gas hook-ups in new residential and commercial buildings starting June 30. As brief background, the Washington State Building Code Council adopted a new code that restricted new gas hook-ups for heating or water heaters in new commercial and residential buildings. While the council did not explicitly ban natural gas for cooking, they made it very expensive to do so. Nearly 700 Washington Hospitality Association members responded to our action alerts to let lawmakers know how damaging a natural gas ban would be for our industry. Thank you to all our members who engaged on this bill! We couldn’t have achieved this win without you.
(Oppose) SSHB 1131: Wrap Act/ Bottle Bill – HB 1131 was a robust proposal aimed at reducing the amount of packaging that ends up in the landfill in Washington state. It included several ideas on how to do this, including extended producer responsibility, post-consumer recycled content, and a bottle bill. Of all the ideas included in the bill, we were most concerned about the implications the bottle bill may have on our industry. This piece would have added a 10-cent charge to all cans, water bottles, alcohol bottles, wine bottles and other beverage containers sold to a customer. In order to receive the $0.10 deposit paid on the bottle back, a business would either need to return the bottle to a deposit site nearby, hold on to the empty bottles in the back of house until its distributor can pick it up, or lose out on the extra cost of the product and use the curbside recycling it already has.
(Support) SB 5536: Blake Decision Fix – Lawmakers were tasked with providing a fix to the “Blake Decision” (drug possession charges) before sine die this legislative session, but have ultimately failed to reach an agreement. This piece of legislation morphed into several different renditions over the 105-day legislative session, but in its most recent version it made drug possession a misdemeanor charge rather than a gross misdemeanor charge. This difference has been the tension point between the two chambers this session and is why a House floor vote failed late in evening on day 105. Because this issue needs to be addressed by July 1, there are rumblings that the Governor may call a special session in order for the Legislature to pass something. If the Legislature is not called back, local governments will be entitled to pass their own drug possession charge laws starting July 1.
(Oppose) SHB 1095/SSB 5109: Unemployment Insurance for Undocumented Workers – Our unemployment insurance system is a federal program administered by the state. As such, our program is required to meet federal standards. The unemployment insurance system cannot legally provide unemployment benefits to workers who are not eligible to work in the United States. SHB 1095/SSB 5109 would have provided a wage replacement similar to unemployment benefits to individuals who are not authorized to work in the United States, but could verify their employment, and that employment met the same requirements of our UI system. However, the bill also required the same eligibility requirements as the UI program, meaning workers would have to be “able and available” for work and would have to perform duties related to work search, despite the federal government retaining preemption over who is and is not eligible to work. The bill put employers in an untenable position, possibly exposing businesses to criminal charges. The bill failed to pass.
(Oppose) SHB 1136: Employee Expenditures – This bill would have required employers to reimburse employees for all necessary expenditures and losses incurred as a direct consequence of their duties. While the concept seems reasonable, we were concerned that there weren’t parameters put around what a reasonable reimbursement was and how long an employer was on the hook for paying for an expense. This bill made it all the way to the Rules committee but failed to come to the floor for a vote.
(Oppose) HB 1227: Employer Health Care funding – HB 1227 would have required employers to reimburse the state for any state health care an employee qualified for and used during the calendar year. Luckily, this bill didn’t even receive a hearing.
(Oppose) E2SHB 1320: Personnel Records – HB 1320 would have required employers to furnish an unredacted electronic or paper employee file within 15 business days of its request at no cost to the employee. If passed, this legislation would have given employees the ability to bring a private right of action against the employer if something in the file was simply missing by accident. This bill failed to make it past the Senate fiscal committee cutoff.
(Oppose) HB 1649/SB 5059: Prejudgment Interest – Prejudgment interest is not a new concept to the legislature and this year was no different. Like other years, proponents of SB 5059 attempted to change state statute to allow for prejudgment interest in lawsuits. This means if an incident happened in 2021, but a lawsuit wasn’t filed until 2022 and the settlement or court case was not final until 2023, the settlement or monies owed could include interest all the way back from when the incident happened. This would add significant costs to any lawsuit, as well as incentivize these costly processes to be dragged out longer in the hopes of a bigger settlement. While this bill is dead for now, it’ll be back next year.
(Oppose) HB 1785: COVID-19/Occupational Disease – HB 1785 would have overturned a Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals’ decision where it determined that a worker’s COVID-19 infection did not constitute an occupational disease. It would have also amended the HELSA by specifying that certain infectious or contagious diseases were considered occupational diseases moving forward.
(Oppose) SSB 5110: Labor Practice Penalties – if passed would have added a private right of action for certain prohibited practices in chapter 49.44 RCW. While the sections under this chapter are random, we already saw bills placed under this chapter to ensure a private right of action as the enforcement mechanism. The Senate bill was referred to the House Rules Committee and failed to make it to the House floor for a vote.
(Oppose) SSB 5417: Employer Political Speech – SB 5417 would have prohibited employers from discussing religious and political speech with employees. The intent of the bill is to violate employers’ constitutionally protected speech, the National Labor Relations Act and prohibit an employer from discussing or sharing points of consideration when deciding to unionize. This bill failed to pass the Senate before the House of Origin cutoff.
(Oppose) 2SSB 5002: Concerning Alcohol Concentration – 2SSB 5002 would have lowered the per se threshold for blood alcohol concentration limits to operate a motor vehicle from 0.08% to 0.05.% Current law allows individuals who are impaired at 0.05% BAC to be charged and convicted of a DUI, but the proposed bill would have made individuals guilty of a DUI regardless of whether or not they were impaired at 0.05% BAC. Lowering the threshold by nearly 40% would have had damaging consequences on operators, as there are no physical signs of intoxication at 0.05% BAC, and employees would be left without tools to limit service, while maintaining liability for overservice. The team vigorously opposed the bill and nearly 500 operators and employees contacted their senator in opposition of this proposal. The bill failed to gain enough support to pass.
(Neutral) HB 1344/SSB 5375: Low-proof beverages taxation – Current premixed canned cocktails are assessed spirit taxes on the entire beverage, and proponents of this bill argued the tax structure on these beverages, that have an alcohol by volume (ABV) similar to beer, is unfair. As originally introduced, HB 1334/SSB 5375 would have drastically cut spirit taxes for canned cocktails for grocery and retail customers, while leaving on premise licensees paying the highest spirit taxes in the country for the same ingredients. This would have provided a significant tax advantage on a product we also prepare and serve to customers. SSB 5375 was amended in the Senate Ways and Means Committee to apply spirit taxes only on the portion of spirits contained in the beverage, rather than the entire beverage – similar to the taxes our industry pays. With the amendment we were able to change our position to neutral. However, the bill failed to advance.
(Support) SSB 5291: Concerning Liquor Licenses – SB 5291 would have required the LCB to issue a decision on a liquor license, renewal, or endorsement application within 45 days of receiving the application. The bill also removed the certified mail requirement when the LCB sends notice of a pending liquor license application to churches, schools and public institutions. Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of the Senate.
(Neutral) SHB 1706/SB 5708: Microenterprise Kitchens – Like we’ve seen over the last several legislations, HB 1706 attempted to allow businesses to cook, serve, and cater out of their homes without the full weight of the Food Code. While the bill only called out 20 exemptions from the food code, we believe that if food safety is good for our customers, this enforcement needs to be shared equitably. The government affairs team was able to get significant changes to the language in the bill before it moved out of its policy committee, but it ultimately failed to make it past the first fiscal cutoff.
(Oppose) SSB 5541: Supply Chain Transparency – SB 5541 would have required every retail seller and manufacturer doing business in Washington and having annual worldwide gross receipts of $100 million or more to disclose its efforts to eradicate human trafficking and forced labor from its direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale. This bill failed to make it past the fiscal cut-off deadline in the Senate.